Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Multimedia test

December 13, 2009

Farmers embrace switchgrass

A farmer who has watched Mother Nature throw her worst at his crops � rain-sodden springs, drought-withered summers, Biblical hordes of voracious, marauding birds � does not lightly embrace every new agricultural phenomenon.

Glowing theories don�t hold a lot of weight to those who have too often seen the Next Big Thing in cash crops yield a bumper harvest of red ink.

That is why it is remarkable to hear the enthusiasm in the voices of Glen Young and Danny Blevins. Both are farmers in Boyd County and both are in the second year of a pilot project to grow switchgrass for use as fuel in electric power plants.

It�s cautious optimism, to be sure, but Blevins and Young think the grass, a native prairie species that is being re-introduced to Northeast Kentucky, can be a moneymaker for them.

That�s a considerable hurdle for proponents of the grass, touted both as an alternative fuel to coal and as a mechanism for alleviating global warming by taking carbon out of the atmosphere.

�That�s the age-old question for a farmer ... Is it practical? Can you make a profit? I think you can,� said Blevins, a retired teacher, environmentalist and conservationist who grows the grass on his family farm in Boyd County.

The final answer will hinge on the market value, which has not yet stabilized, said Young, who also farms in Boyd County. He does not believe switchgrass is a replacement for traditional cash crops but more a supplement. �Overall there can be a place in a farmer�s plan,� he said.

Reviving native grass

Switchgrass was among the dominant grasses in the prairies that once covered the central plains and it still can be found in some pastures and along roadsides.

A perennial, switchgrass grows to around six feet and can be harvested once or more per year for 10 years. It thrives on marginal land and can endure greater extremes of temperature and drought than some traditional crops.

Text Only
Multimedia test
  • 0407dinky_246.jpg Dinky engine is big deal for historical society

    More than half of the spectators watching the delivery of a piece of industrial history here Wednesday were gray-haired and some of them walked with canes.

    April 6, 2011 2 Photos

  • 042710_ACTC_Dedication_077.jpg Governor and legislators laud ACTC new EastPark building

    An investment in the future of northeastern Kentucky and the fulfillment of a dream, envisioned by the Kentucky General Assembly’s approval of the Higher Education Reform Act of 1997, were among the laudatory phrases repeated by several speakers on Monday.

    April 26, 2010 1 Photo 1 Video

  • ACTC Theater Slide Show: ACTC Theatre dazzles "Copacabana” The Musical, a lush tribute to the Technicolor musicals of the 1940s, started at Ashland Community and Technical College on Friday night. The Broadway-style musical fantasy features original songs by Barry Manilow and dazzling costumes, sets and choreography.

    April 10, 2010 1 Photo

  • Corner of Color Burst of color The best sign that spring is about to really take off is already in full bloom at Ashland’s Central Park.

    March 27, 2010 1 Photo

  • Pathway to the Cross Pathway to the cross A church in Huntington is offering a different kind of look at the Easter story this week.

    March 26, 2010 1 Photo

  • AYB Spring Performance Slide Show: Dancing into spring The Ashland Youth Ballet presented its Spring Concert at two shows Tuesday at the Paramount Arts Center.

    March 24, 2010 1 Photo

  • Landfill moving forward Officials hope Cooksey work will cut pollution, end fire hazard An agreement four years in the making has led to work at the former Cooksey Brothers Landfill, which regulators say will reduce pollution and end a long-standing fire hazard at the site.

    March 13, 2010 3 Photos

  • Lady Vikings ousted in state semi Rowan's dream run ends in semifinal Although the fairy tale didn't end with a crown, Rowan County's journey was magical while it lasted.

    The Lady Vikings ran into a merciless Louisville Mercy team that attacked with furious pressure.

    March 13, 2010 1 Photo

  • Rowan Girls Advance to Semifinal round Rowan hits jackpot of Final Four Rowan County set out a lofty goal at the start of the season, but very few teams actually accomplish what the Lady Vikings were going after.

    Four, to be exact.

    March 13, 2010 1 Photo

  • Rowan girls win in first round of Sweet 16 Rowan stingy with Breathitt Rowan County coach Scott Tackett can’t quite put a finger on it, but there is something special about the 2010 Lady Vikings.

    “We may not be the most talented team, but I get a feeling about this team that I don't get a whole lot,” Tackett said. “There’s something special going on here.”

    March 11, 2010 1 Photo